Leadership in a changing world

This year, leaders from across the member organisations have been active in many arenas. They programmed the second major VCCC Research Conference in September; were recipients of Medical Research Futures Fund (MRFF) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding; led VCCC committees; were consumer advocates and experts on working groups; participated in the VCCC distributed leadership group, and, with colleagues all over Victoria, came together in the face of challenges of COVID-19. There is no doubt that the strength and future of this alliance is the deep pool of talent that it brings together.

Research and Education Lead Program

The Research and Education (R&E) Lead Program is maturing into an effective means for fostering multi-site, multidisciplinary, high impact, collaborative research.

With 13 leads working across 10 tumour streams and two cross cutting cancer themes (primary care integration and nursing), the framework is producing comprehensive approaches to translatable cancer research.

Some of the highlights include:

Addressing gaps in endometrial cancer

In November 2019, Professor Linda Mileshkin, R&E Lead for Gynae-oncology, convened a workshop Endometrial Cancer, a Vision for 2020 at which key research opportunities were identified and discussed by the multidisciplinary group. To  address the gap of limited treatments for women with metastatic or recurrent endometrial cancer, a Medical Research Futures Fund (MRFF) application was submitted by the Lead in collaboration with Australia New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group (ANZGOG), a multidisciplinary team from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the NHMRC Clinical Trial Centre, citing the significance of the VCCC endometrial cancer workshop. This application was ultimately successful with $1.6m committed to new ANZGOG trials.

Breast Cancer 2020: the cutting edge

The Breast Cancer R&E Lead program hosted its first major conference and public forum in February 2020  to profile what is new, challenging and controversial in the neoadjuvant management of patients with breast cancer. The forum addressed dilemmas in breast cancer treatment including surgical considerations, tumour heterogeneity, therapy sequencing, radiotherapy, reconstruction and supportive care and featured internationally renowned expert, Dr Eric Winer, director of the Breast Oncology Centre at Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Improving treatments for pancreatic cancer

Professor Peter Gibbs, R&E Lead for Gastrointestinal Cancers, convened the third in a series of pancreatic cancer symposia aimed at using clinical registry data to analyse and improve clinical management of pancreatic cancer. With the poorest outcomes of all cancers, the need to use the collective experience of clinicians caring for pancreatic cancer patients, and integrate it with published research evidence and real world clinical data, to reach consensus on optimal patient care is essential to achieve the best possible outcome for patients. As a result, focused effort on the development of a research project investigating a role for PET imaging and novel PET tracers is underway.

Distributed leadership

Together, the VCCC alliance members  represent a critical mass of expertise and resources. Under the VCCC distributed leadership model, strategic leadership is drawn from across the alliance members to:

  • Contribute to strategic planning and prioritisation
  • Guide programs of work
  • Review and inform new processes and systems
  • Contribute to education and training initiatives
  • Galvanise collaboration across disciplines and institutions

Collaboration pipeline

Addressing clinical challenges during COVID-19

Healthcare services around the world have faced many clinical challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global health crisis has necessitated rapid innovation and a coordinated response. Patients with cancer, and the health professionals who care for them, are particularly impacted.

Victorian COVID-19 Cancer Network crisis response

Early in March 2020, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) and Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Consortium (MPCCC) established the Victorian COVID-19 Cancer Network (VCCN) to lead the cancer sector’s crisis response and recovery plan. The network is provided with vital data by the Victorian Cancer Registry and Cancer Council Victoria is also an active contributor, providing a vital interface with the Victorian community.

The VCCN quickly grew to over 700 members from a wide range of disciplines from general practice, medical oncology, haematology, radiation oncology, paediatric and geriatric oncology and pharmacy through to consumers, patients and government representatives.

As the pandemic continues, the cancer sector is experiencing large scale disruption to the treatment of patients, reduced healthcare sector capacity and concerns about the ongoing impacts of delayed cancer diagnoses.

The network has delivered clinical guidance across the cancer sector, ranging from specific tumour streams to telehealth, ethics and cancer care for Indigenous peoples. In addition, the VCCN has supported educational programming, public health advocacy campaigns, surveys to identify the needs of the sector, peer support and connectivity.

Catalyst for fast, collaborative change

The VCCC’s COVID-19 response has demonstrated the alliance’s capacity to act as a catalyst for fast, inclusive change and its effectiveness as a vehicle for enabling health sector resilience to unexpected challenges.

The VCCN approach and collaborative outputs have provided much needed unification during the time of crisis. As a result, care and treatment provided to patients across the state has been more consistent and importantly, health care professionals have been better supported to deliver optimal care.